A New Kant-Friesian System of Metaphysics

Now beauty [kállos], as we said, shone bright among those visions, and in this world below we apprehend it through the clearest of our senses, clear and resplendent. For sight is the keenest of the physical senses, though wisdom is not seen by it -- how passionate would be our desire for it, if such a clear image of wisdom were granted as would come through sight -- and the same is true of the other beloved objects; but beauty alone has this privilege, to be most clearly seen and most lovely of them all.

Plato, Phaedrus, 250D [after R. Hackford, Plato's Phaedrus, Library of the Liberal Arts,
1952, p. 93, and the Loeb Classical Library, Euthryphro Apology Crito Phaedo Phaedrus,
Harvard University Press, 1914-1966, p. 485]

This page presents an outline with graphic illustration of the sytem of metaphysics that is presented or argued in more detail elsewhere, as in The Origin of Value in a Transcendent Function, "The Foundations of Value, Part III", "Ontological Undecidability", "Meaning and the Problem of Universals", and elsewhere. The virtue of an outline is that one can get an overview of the system. If someone asks, "What does it all add up to?" an answer is possible. Thus, we could say that when Hypatia showed a menstrual rag to an infatuated student and said, "You are in love with this, young man, not with the Beautiful," the proper answer for him to make would have been, "But the Beautiful is in you!" That is because, on this system, what Plato would have regarded as the Form of Beauty is present in phenomenal objects, like Hypatia herself. Something like this is what Aristotle might have said, but then here, unlike Aristotle, the Form is not a natural attribute of the object. That is where Plato was more correct -- Beauty is an avenue to the transcendent. At the same time it is transcendent, not just an avenue. This paradox is possible because of a Kantian phenomenalism -- transcendence is not an order of objects in a separate reality, but the nature of empirical and phenomenal objects in themselves. How this works, in more detail, we shall see.

With Franz Brentano (1838-1917) and Edmund Husserl (1859-1938), we have the introduction of the idea of "intentionality" into the mainstream of modern philosophy. Husserl uses the idea to define the nature of consciousness: Consciousness is always intentional, is always "consciousness of," i.e. it always empties out or projects its contents onto something else, onto an object. This was thought of by both Brentano and Husserl, as it was in Mediaeval philosophy, as a subjective quality; but Schopenhauer had already said much the same thing with a Kantian twist: The contents of consciousness, in being projected, create external objects, phenomenal objects, and so are not merely subjective. Intentionality gives us Kant's "empirical realism." The paradoxes that attend this are examined in "Ontological Undecidability". The status of empirical objects as described by Kant is reflected in Husserl's choice of a name for his system of philosophy: "Phenomenology." Husserl's Pyrrhonian suspension of judgment (the "epoché") about the ontology of empirical objects, however, reflects Cartesian rather than Kantian assumptions. If phenomenal objects are empirically real, then they clearly do exist. Descartes and Husserl were worried about what Kant had called "transcendental realism."

The Subject emptied of contents was also recognized by Schopenhauer as conformable to the discussion of subject and object in the Br.hadâran.yaka Upanis.ad: The subject becomes the "unknown knower," always knowing but never an object of knowledge itself. This was actually similar to Kant's own argument against solipsism, that the subject is known no more directly (in fact less so) than the object, contradicting the claim of Descartes that the subject is better known, in character and existence, than objects. But Schopenhauer, as would Kant, rejected the conclusion of the Upanishads themselves, that the Unknown Knower is then to be identified with Being itself, as Brahman, "Existence, Consciousness, and Bliss." The One of the Upanishads, unlike the One of Parmenides, has consciousness as well as existence.

Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), although in general having little to offer to Friesian Philosophy (cf. "Varieties of Moral Aestheticism" and On Heidegger's Nazism and Philosophy), does make some metaphysical distinctions that are useful, especially between Being as such (eînai, "to be" in Greek) and beings (tà ónta, the "beings" in Greek). "Being," imagined in the abstract, as was also noted by Hegel, is all but indistinguishable from the Void of "Not Being." The emptiness of the Subject, and of consciousness, is thus conformable to Heidegger's view of Being as well as that of the Upanishads. The duality of Being and beings, however, also parallels many other traditional metaphysical distinctions: Aristotle's distinction between the potential (matter) and the actual (energeia, form), Spinoza's distinction between natura naturans (the creative, unchanging power of God) and natura naturata (the transient, individualized modifications of eternal attributes of God), Kant's distinction between phenomena (immanent) and things-in-themselves (transcendent), etc. A conformable distinction can also be drawn between the perfect aspect of time and the imperfect aspect [note].

If the emptiness of the existence of the subject revealed by intentionality is distinguished from existence in general, a distinction may be drawn between "internal transcendence," of the subject, and "external transcendence," of the object. Both of these will be called "negative transcendence" because of their privative derivation, emptied of immanent contents and left as equal and opposite forms of emptiness: the "transparency" of internal transcendence (to borrow Sartre's expression), and the "hiddenness," behind phenomenal objects, of external transcendence (Heidegger's emphasis). This dualism of negative transcendence is conformable to Descartes' ontological distinction between soul and matter, to Spinoza's distinction between the divine attributes of thought and extension, and to the Nineteenth Century metaphysical dualism between Idealism and Materialism. Here, however, internal and external transcendence do not imply different substances, as in Descartes, or different reductionistic metaphysical theories.

Spinoza's dualism may come the closest to the truth, but we make no commitment at this point to the ultimate ontological status of internal and external: Both have a claim to be "substance," in the same way that Being may be thought of as substantial; but each has an equal claim. (Again, the paradoxes that attend this are examined in "Ontological Undecidability".) Furthermore, internal and external, if ontologically equal, represent the equality of purpose and will in the universe with the natural laws of causality: Where originally Aristotle had thought that all things have final as well as efficient causes, purpose has now disappeared from respectable science, and even from most respectable psychology. Nevertheless, even if confined to human consciousness, purpose may be as ontologically fundamental as causality.

The next step is to note, first, that internal and external existence overlap, for the body of a conscious being is experienced both as part of the subject and as existing externally. Internal existence thus has a place, literally, in the external world. Similarly, many conscious beings have places in the external world. The subject as a self (an ego) is therefore to be distinguished from the subject as an other (a tu) or many others (vos). Although Anglo-American philosophy spent many fruitless years arguing over the knowability of "other minds," both Sartre and Martin Buber (1878-1965) viewed this as a case of intuitive insight. At the same time, the ancient attribution of personality to many natural and inanimate objects now seems unjustified: The conception of nature as working through impersonal and mechanistic forces, which began in the earliest days of Greek Philosophy, has recently even threatened (through the behaviorism of people like Gilbert Ryle, 1900-1976, and B.F. Skinner, 1904-1990) to erase, not just psychological purpose, but internal, personal existence altogether. This, however, is clearly reductionistic. External transcendence, the existence of an external object (a thing, an id) or objects (things, ea), corresponds to both unconscious and conscious things (selves with bodies).

While the original conception is of immanence as an epiphenomenon of transcendence, a "Copernican Revolution" can be effected by which these relationships are turned inside out: Negative transcendence, with its dualism, thus becomes an epiphenomenon of positive transcendence. This transformation is considered in the "Sensation and the Sensible Plenum" chapter of The Origin of Value in a Transcendent Function. The relationships between internal and external existence, self and others, that paradoxically underlie immanence, now appear internally in positive transcendence. A useful metaphor might be that of a hologram: Looking through it, one sees various objects projected into an imaginary space, but the objects really only exist in the hologram. If the viewer is then imagined as part of the hologram, projected on one side as the objects are projected on the other, and even multiple viewers are imagined, each seeing the objects slightly, or greatly, differently, then the hologram models positive transcendence quite well. The unity of Spinoza's God comes to mind, but "substance" is a conception of negative transcendence -- as in Kant it is usefully only a conception for phenomena. Positive transcendence, like a thing-in-itself in Kant and Schopenhauer, is a ground, not an instance, of rational categories for phenomena.

With the notion that progress in metaphysics here involves an "inside outside" transformation, we might return for a moment to Descartes and Spinoza. Descartes got himself into a difficulty by positing two separate substances, soul and matter, each with a distinct essence, thought and extension, respectively. The result was that it was difficult to account for an interaction between the two, or even how they could interact at all, or even how the soul could maintain a physical location in the body. It has always been reasonable to see these difficulties as a reductio ad absurdum of the theory.

Spinoza got around all of it with a kind of "inside out" move, which turned the mere, insubstantial relation between soul and matter into the ground and foundation of the whole business. So something that in Descartes did not have a substantial existence at all, and to which it was difficult to attribute any kind of existence, now became, not only a substance in its own right, but the only substance, with a unique instantiation of a membership of one, in God. Thought and extension were merely attributes of God. But where Descartes could at least affirm that interactions between soul and matter were at least something that we could actually observe, Spinoza's theory posits something, God is, in itself, invisible to observation and paradoxical in conception. For all its difficulties, the theory of Descartes seems like common sense in comparison. Yet Spinoza had resolved the fundamental paradoxes in Descartes.

In turn, what we see in Kant is something that is formally identical to the move in Spinoza. What might seem like something substantial and separate, either in internal existence or external, is now folded into a bridge beween internal and external, namely phenomenal objects, which are both a mental content and a representation of the world. The phenomenal contents of consciousness are not substantial as such, but they do possess a duality that we can spin off into the separate conceptions of internal and external, thought and extension. Since these conceptions are abstractions, it should not be surprising that their intrinsic contents and ontological foundations are obscure. They are privative conceptions, and thus become here forms of negative transcendence. Consequently, phenomena are not hidden and invisible as in Spinoza's God, and they are not an empty abstraction like the relation in Descartes between soul and matter. They are the present reality that is actually the datum that we are working on. Phenomena are not only directly available to us, they are us, in so far as phenomenal representation is the actual content of mind and consciousness.

Thus, where Spinoza had rescued Descartes with a metaphysical inversion of his terms, Kant did the same thing, and rescued Spinoza in turn, with an empirical and psychology inversion of the terms. One way this works we can see in comparing what "immanent" and "transcendent" would mean in Spinoza and Kant. In Kant, it is simple and unambiguous. Phenomena and consciousness are immanent, we are directly acquainted with them, and that's it. Trascendence goes with something that is abstract and that we are not directly acquainted with, namely things-in-themselves, both internal and external existence in themselves. But with Spinoza, we have the paradox that God is metaphysically immanent, and so in one sense is directly present to us, but it is nevertheless transcendent to the empirical content of experience. God in his unity and power is invisible, which is why historically few others have believed that they were looking directly at God simply by looking out at the world, or in reflecting on their own consciousness. The attributes of God, thought and extension, share in this paradox, although with them the duality of immanent and transcendent is reflected in a dual character intrinsic to each, i.e. we can see thought as an empty vessel of consciousness, or as filled with mental contents, while similarly we can see extension as empty space, or as filled with material objects. Such a duality is reflected in Spinoza's terminology, where we can contrast the attributes as such with the modes which are the specific determinations, the natura naturata, of the attributes. Kant's move, therefore, is to put Spinoza back on the track of epistemological priority, whence he had somewhat wandered (into speculative metaphysics) from Descrates, while benefiting from a formal identity with Spinoza's transformation of Descartes' problem. A Kant-Friesian theory benefits in the same way.

Having made the "inside out" transformation, the result, positive transcendence, like transcendence in Plato and Kant, is the basis of value -- as described in "The Theory of the Good". The simplest idea is that Value is actually Being, but that by having a conscious existence, the subject is dissociated from Being as such. Characteristics of Being, such as that something cannot come from or disappear into nothing, agreed on consistently from metaphysics (starting with Parmenides and the Upanishads) to physics (with the conservation of mass/energy in Einstein), clearly do not apply to conscious existence, which disappears every day into and reappears from sleep, leaving us with the fear or expectation of annihilation in death. In the kind of transient, ephemeral, and vulnerable existence that conscious beings have, Being as such nevertheless has a kind of phantom or shadow existence, as value. The forms of value are then articulated in terms of the forms of negative transcendence. The strongest expressions of value are the requirements of morality for "good will," good intentions (the legal mens rea), which are attitudes of the pure subject. Actions that affect others are then also issues of morality, as actions can be right or wrong (the legal actus reus). The larger categories of value, culminating in the religious value of the holy, have more concrete but less necessary content. These articulations are illustrated in the "Six Domains of the Polynomic System of Value", though an abbreviated form of the table is as follows:

THE PHENOMENAL GOODReligion, the sacred and the polluted, the means of salvation and existential liberation: obligation: pietatives (religious obligations, of piety)
ETHICSAesthetics, the beautiful and the ugly, art, things good in themselves: obligation: optatives (wishes)
MORALITYIdeal Ethics, the good and the bad of things in general, instrumental goods: obligation: hortatives (exhortations)
PERSONSMorality of things, right and wrong of property and contract: obligation: jussives (commands)
WILLMorality of actions, right and wrong: obligation: imperatives
Morality of intentions: obligation: imperatives













The articulations of value are part of the larger system of the grounds of necessary truth. The imperatives, jussives, hortatives, optatives, and pietatives of value are ontologically deeper but logically weaker than indicative forms of necessity, which consist of (1) logical (analytic) necessity, (2) a priore necessity (certain of Kant's synthetic a priori truths), (3) perfect necessity (the necessity of past and present as opposed to "future contingency" -- see above), and (4) the conditioned necessity of the laws of nature (nomological necessity) [note]. These are displayed in the "Table of Modes of Necessity" and in the continuing discussion in The Origin of Value in a Transcendent Function. The final articulations of the tree of necessity, as illustrated in the accompanying form of the diagram of positive transcendence (using the device of the Venn Diagram, or the Borromean Rings), may be also seen in the full tree as follows. To each mode of necessity corresponds a mode of contingency. Thus, relative to analytic necessity, synthetic propositions are contingent; but this is only a relative contingency, as synthetic propositions can be either necessary (a priore) or contingent (a posteriore) themselves. Similarly, the contingency of a posteriore propositions divides into perfect necessity and imperfect contingency. "Ur-contingency" is a possibility, as conceived by William of Ockham (1285-1349) and others, that is prior to the principle of non-contradiction. Since "pietative" necessity can also violate the principle of non-contradiction, we may see the tree beginning and ending in the same place, as the "holy" represents both absolute possibility (Ur-contingency) and absolute necessity (pietatives as the commands of religion).

The picture of the relationship of rational knowledge to existence that emerges is just the opposite of that postulated by Plato and Aristotle, who believed that the most real was the most knowable. Here, the deeper that we get ontologically, and so the closer to the most real, the less knowlable, or the less it can be rationally articulated, the matter is. This is the principal characteristic of Kantian philosophy. In the simplest terms, what this accomplishes is to separate religion from science, the former most concerned with ultimate meaning, the latter the most productive of rational knowledge. Thus, Kant himself said, "I have therefore found it necessary to deny knowledge, in order to make room for faith" [Norman Kemp Smith translation -- Ich mußte also das Wissen aufheben, um zum Glauben Platz zu bekommen -- Critique of Pure Reason, B xxx].

The division of the forms of analytic and imperative is something that also occurs, more complexly, with aesthetic value, where we have, for starters, the difference between the "beautiful" and the "sublime" made famous both by Edmund Burke and by Kant (in Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime, 1764). Kant distinguishes two varieties of the beautiful (the fascinating/moving and the laughing/delightful) and three varieties of the sublime (the terrifying, the noble, and the splendid). The "fascinating" beautiful is touched by the sublime, while the "splendid" sublime is touched by the beautiful. It is sometimes said that Rudolf Otto's category of the holy/numinous is simply part of the sublime. The feeling of the holy, however, has aspects of the uncanny and supernatural that the sublime does not. We could say, however, that the "terrifying" sublime is touched by the holy, so the diagram at right has been modified to show the holy branching off of the sublime. A less independent branch of the beautiful and the sublime, unconsidered by Kant (or Otto), should be the erotic. Erotic art tends from the beautiful, of the fascinating sort, to the splendid and terrifying varieties of the sublime. Indeed, some would see much pornography as entirely terrfying, and nothing else. Clearly, erotic and carnal images and situations have a power, tending even to the numinous, that has spawned various sorts of taboos and special institutions over the centuries, from temple prostitution and tantrism to the vigorous containment and concealment of the Middle Eastern h.arîm. Thus, the holiness of some erotic images, from Classical religion as from India, cannot be denied, and cannot be discounted as an element even in modern pornography.

The chart at right displays the logical relationships of the four modal terms -- necessity, impossibility, possibility, and contingency. It is noteworthy that all four modals can be defined in terms of each other, especially just using either the concepts of necessity ("") or possibility (""), and negation (the tilde, "~"). It would thus seem that there is really only one primitive principle, though necessity and possibility would seem to have about equal claim to it. It hardly seems possible to define either of them independently and without circularity. Thus, the recent approach of treating modality as quantification across possible worlds, as suggested by Saul Kripke (inspired, of course, by Leibniz), presupposes the meaning of "possible" in "possible worlds." Treating the possible worlds as actual worlds eliminates the modality but introduces a terrifying metaphysical prospect of infinities on infinites of worlds, though precisely that has been proposed in some interpretations of possibility and probability in quantum mechanics. Similarly, a more venerable approach in philosophy, from Nietzsche back to St. Thomas Aquinas and earlier, might regard modality as quantification across time, on the principle that necessities are eternal but possibilities and contingencies only temporary. This approach requires the postulate, however, that all possibilities must exist at some point in eternity, or an eternally unrealized possibility would be quantitatively identical to impossibility. The strongest reason for such a postulate, however, would simply be to make replacement of modality with quantification possible, which sounds more like begging the question than like explaining anything.

Modals can apply to propositions (de dicto) or to things (de re). Only analytic propositions true or false by logical form alone can be necessary independent of the nature of things. Other analytic propositions, the kind described by Kant, can be necessarily true or false because of their meaning. (Quine's infamous rejection of such analytic truths has recently been refuted by Jerrold Katz.) Analytic truths of meaning, however, have a different force depending on whether the meaning is of nominal essences, by convention and usage, or of real essences, refering to natural kinds and real universals. The Aristotelian view of necessity appears to be entirely in terms of real essences, which means that all necessary truth is analytic, a view maintained as late as Leibniz and Hegel (if not by modern Aristotelians). Kant realized in effect, however, that real essences are artifacts of necessity rather than the foundations of it. A necessary connection between properties derives from forms of synthesis that bestow the necessity (which is why Katz can regard Kant as a "conceptualist" -- i.e. neither a nominalist nor, in the Aristotelian sense, a realist -- on the issue of universals). An analytic truth without a necessary ground (i.e. based on only a nominal essence) would actually be "analytic a posteriori," a possibility not allowed by Kant but considered by Kripke. Here, however, Kant's formal ground of synthetic necessity a priori is limited (as "a priore") and distinguished from the necessities of natural law and the polynomic forms of value. With such material grounds of necessity, the quid facti discovery is by way of Nelson's Socratic Method, and the quid juris justification is by way of the Friesian theory of non-intuitive immediate knowledge, where the articulation of Positive Transcendence is part of the structure of immediate knowledge. The identity of necessity and possibility in the Transcendent, which resolves paradoxes like divine perfection and divine freedom, etc., is part of the theory of Kantian Antinomies.

What necessity comes to mean is just all the elements of fixity and definiteness in reality. Actuality itself, as the existence of concrete objects in space and time, is thus just one form of necessity in general, i.e. the perfect necessity of past and present, the opposite of future contingency. Thus the move that seeks to reduce necessity to actuality, i.e. universal quantification of infinite (possible and actual) worlds, is reversed, with physical actuality as one mode of necessity. If necessity is fixity and definiteness, then possibility is fluidity and indefiniteness. Contingency, as non-necessary truth or existence, is fluid in relation to equal or higher modes of necessity, but fixed and actual in relation to lower modes of necessity. The contingency of a statment like "the window is closed," occurs because of the possiblity that the window can be opened (future, i.e. imperfect, contingency), but it is fixed and true because of the perfect necessity of the present.

Thus, as was appreciated by both Plato and Aristotle, all knowledge, whether of eternal truths or the price of fruit, depends on necessity. Since Plato understood necessity as only regarding the fixity of the Forms, he could not understand how any statement merely about the world, about changeable things, could really have the characteristics of knowledge -- it would only be a "likely story," according to the Timaeus. Although Aristotle immanentized the Forms as the real essences of things, this still restricted knowledge to those essences (today converted into the intellectual, and perhaps also political, sin of "essentialism") -- though Aristotle had to consider that statements about the past, whose truth could not change, would have to be necessary also. These restrictions can now be broken down with the allowance for multiple grounds of truth on the multiple modes of necessity.

Every truth, and so all knowledge, whether about essences, windows, or the good, is true by virtue of a particular mode of necessity, though perhaps contingent in relation to higher modes. At the same time, we still have the reversal of the identity of being and knowing in Platonic-Aristotelian metaphysics:  Here, "weaker" necessities are stronger and deeper both ontologically and in terms of meaning, while the very "strongest" necessities of logic are nearly devoid of meaning and afford few clues about the truths of Being.

Nelson held that only necessity would apply to things-in-themselves. This is not true, except as a characterization of the sense of necessity in the pietative mode, where a naive "mononomic" theory of necessity would concentrate and universalize all the forms of necessity. However, in the polynomic theory, the pietative mode, although containing an ontologically fundamental sense of necessity, is really an entirely contingent ground of truth. Thus, the ultimate paradox of the tree of the modes of necessity is not just that it might be closed into a loop, with pietative necessity followed by ur-contingency, but that in closing the loop pietative nececessity is ur-contingency (as at right -- what we might call the Friesian dharmacakra). What this really means is that, as Nelson said, things-in-themselves are absolutely necessary but also that they contain an absolute possibility, which makes all necessity itself contingent. In traditional theological terms, this would mean that God would be absolutely good and absolutely rational but is also omnipotent in a way that is not limited by His goodness and rationality. The contradiction produced by this combination of attributes is just the Ninth Antinomy of transcendence:  The arbitrary freedom of God's omnipotent will cannot be limited by the forms of goodness and rationality, but God's goodness and rationality cannot be compromised by His arbitrary freedom. With or without a personal God, this contradiction at the foundation of Being cannot be avoided.

Since conceiving transcendent objects generates, as Kant (and Buddhism) thought, hopeless contradictions, and since neither objects (matter) nor subjects (souls) exist absolutely, but only relatively in negative transcendence, we can ask what is left that does exist absolutely? What we are left with, indeed, is the right, the good, the beautiful, and the holy. This sounds like nothing so much as Platonism, with the Form of the Good as ultimate reality. The transcendence of the good, however, is a Kantian rather than a Platonic transcendence, which means, as the Qur'ân says of God, that it is "as close as the jugular vein" -- within us, not outside of us.

Similarly, the contradictions of speculative metaphysics about the transcendent always concern the nature of individuals in the transcendent. Whether there is a God or durable souls falls to the Antinomies, or to the Buddhist Fourfold Negation, just because these are individual things, which reason grasps as phenomenal, not transcendent. If we cannot conceive individuals in the transcendent, however, then perhaps we are left with universals. This is, of course, exactly what Plato thinks, that abstract objects, of meaning, value, and mathematics, exist as Forms in the World of Being. This turns abstract objects into just what they are not, individual things, also attributing to them greater reality than actual phenomenal individuals. From this follow all the paradoxes and anomalies of Platonism, including the notion in Neoplatonism that God only knows universals and the awkward feature of Plato's own system that souls, as (self-)moving things, cannot really exist in the World of Being (the Phaedrus has them merely in the heavens in the World of Becoming). We should say, then, that the transcendent consists neither of individuals nor of universals. One way that this might work can be seen if we adopt a system of Kantian quantum mechanics, where the upper "layer" of the transcendent, i.e. before we have the synthesis of phenomenal objects in consciousness, consists of the sum of all possible states of the system. This is of great metaphysical interest because possibilities are universals, but actual existence will only be of individuals. Possibility consists of universals but is of individuals, and the not-yet-existing, i.e. non-existing, feature of possibility corresponds to the imperfect existence and apparent emptiness of negative transcendence.

The transcendent as possibility is thus identical with the transcendent as power, whether the power of God or the power represented by Aristotle's matter, which, of course, is the radical Ur-Contingency in which anything is possible. It may be easier to conceive together in this way individuals and universals that to conceive together the absolute power of the transcendent with the absolute necessity that is the other side of transcendence. Necessity, as the perfect aspect, is what gets us phenomenal individuals. Necessity in general, then, might be said to be that which gets us ontological individuality and actuality in general, as opposed to the universality and possibility of transcendent power. Such dualism, in turn, seems to always boil down to the subject-object distinction, the intentional difference between content and object, with which I began above. It is really subject-object that separates all actuality and possibility, all necessity and contingency, individuality and universality. If there is a Creation beyond subject and object, beyond necessity and contingency, it is that the fundamental relation of intentionality will be there, structuring our entire existence, creating life and death, being and value.

An evocative name may exist for the level of reality containing the superposition of all possibilities, the "World of Similitudes," which translates the Sûfî term 'Âlam al-Mithâl (or, in Persian transcription, Âlam-i-Mithâl, which would be pronounced, as is rarely noted, Âlam-e-Mesâl). Since mithâl means "pattern," "standard," or "model," we may merely be looking at the translation of a Neoplatonic term for Plato's archetypal Forms. Like the Neoplatonists, however, the Sûfîs were also talking about a level of mystical experience, not just a part of metaphysical doctrine; and the alternative meaning of mithâl as "similar," reflected in the common translation, goes beyond the merely archetypal role to the more fluid senses of possibility.

A nice analogy between quantum mechanics and the modes of necessity is illustrated in the diagram below, based on one in Subatomic Physics by Hans Frauenfelder and Ernest M. Henley [Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1974, Fig. 5.1, p.69]. In quantum mechanics, angular momentum, i.e. the momentum of an object in rotation, is quantacized, i.e. it only assumes values that are integer multiples of Planck's Constant (or the "reduced Planck's Constant," = h/2). Angular momentum is actually a vector quantity, which means it has direction as well as magnitude. Ordinarily the vector is given by the "right-hand rule," which means that if the rotation is represented by the curled fingers of the right hand, the vector is the direction of the pointing thumb. In quantum mechanics, the vector is itself quantacized. Since spinning charged particles create a magnetic field, placing them in an external magnetic field forces them into quantacized orientations, conventionally shown relative to the z axis. These are the "magnetic substates" of a given quantity of angular momentum. In the diagram, for an angular momentum of 4, there are nine substates, where the z axis component of the angular momentum ranges from the positive 4 through zero to negative 4 -- the vector is shown as L, with its z component as Lz (= +2). An angular momentum of 4 is chosen to match up with the nine modes of necessity. The cases are not entirely analogous. The modes of necessity are differentiated by the application of the subject/object distinction, like the magnetic field, but also by the application of the mediate/immediate and perfect/imperfect distinctions. So the ontological "field" includes a number of dichotomies. The matches between substates and modes are made to illustrate the "strength" of necessity in each mode. The strongest mode of positive transcendence is the imperative, so it is matched with the +4 substate. The strongest mode of abstract necessity, which can be viewed as an artifact of negative transcendence, is the analytic, matched with the _4 substate. The weakest mode of necessity altogether is the pietative, so it is matched with the 0 momentum substate. The other modes of necessity are distributed appropriately with the intermediate values. An important and perfectly analogous aspect of this arrangement is that in the absence of the ontological "field," all the modes of necessity collapse to one, the pietative, which is why the requirements of piety are traditionally regarded as imperatives, with necessity equal to that by which the divine Will governs even the laws of logic. Thus, the prohibition of pork in Judaism and Islâm is ordinarily explained just in terms of prudential considerations, i.e. it helps in avoiding trichinosis. This is, however, only a matter of hortative necessity and trivializes religion into a kind of divine Food and Drug Administration. Instead, the prohibition of pork, as pietative necessity, means that it is a kind of self-denial, beyond prudence or morality, that is imposed merely to show obedience to the Will of God. Thus al-Ghazâlî argued against the prudentialism of Avicenna. This diagram is the only model on this page that gives some representation of degrees of necessity, and it does it in an evocative way. Thus, if the z axis stands for the phenomenal world, and perpendicular development the transcendent, the imperative and the analytic, although the phenomenally strongest, have zero magnitude in the transcendent, while the pietative, although with as great an absolute magnitude, is entirely directed into the transcendent. This graphically represents the paradox previously noted that the weaker modes of necessity are ontologically deeper.

The stronger modes of necessity, on the other hand, are the most abstract and formalistic, while more positive content goes with weaker necessity. Thus, ritual acts of religion, like prayer, while providing most of the content of the practice and meaning of religion, have no cognitive content of necessity at all. This is consistent with the previously noted circumstance that the most knowable relates to what is ontologically the most superficial. Kant was not entirely consistent here. While in general Kant views the less knowable, the things-in-themselves, as most real, he also thought that morality alone offers a strong connection to the transcendent. Kantian aesthetic value became merely subjective, a feeling of the harmony of the faculties. If we apply the same principle to value and practical reason as to theoretical reason, then the most knowable things, the abstract and formal principles of morality, tell us the least about the transcendent, just as logic tells us the least about nature or anything else. Nevertheless, morality and logic exhibit the strongest necessity. On the model of the magnetic substates diagram, we get a representation that the necessity of the other modes is no less than that of morality or logic, just directed into a different dimension. We can expect, therefore, that religious necessity, the pietative, is just as strong as morality and logic, but in a way that does not appear in a rational or intelligible way in phenomenal reality. Kant's essential rationalism is evident in the way that he shied away from any such implications.

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A New Kant-Friesian System of Metaphysics, Note 1;
Tense and Aspect, Expressed in English and Greek

Ecce homo.
Behold the man!
[John 19:5]

Ecce facta sunt nova.
Behold, all things have become new.
[2 Corinthians 5:17]

"Aspect" is a grammatical characteristic of verbs rather different from the more familiar "tense" system. The "aspect" of an action is whether it is thought of as taking place at a point in time, the aorist ("undefined"), still continuing to happen at a point in time, the imperfect (or imperfective), or having just been completed at a point in time, the perfect (or perfective). "Tense" is whether a point in time is in the past, the present, or the future. Tense, therefore, locates us at a point in time, while aspect then tells us what the action is like at that point. Any tense can therefore be combined with any aspect, as with a future perfect like "I will have done" something:  

Languages may inflect verbs for aspect, for tense, for both, or for neither. Both Classical Greek and Modern English have fairly complete systems for both aspect and tense, though Greek did so with inflections, while English uses an auxiliary verb system. Other languages use some of the same terminology in their grammars, without necessarily making the same distinctions. Thus in French the "imperfect" is a past tense -- probably because in Greek itself the "imperfect" is actually the past imperfect.
Active Voice
AspectAoristI sawI seeI will see
ImperfectI was seeingI am seeingI will be
PerfectI had seenI have seenI will
have seen
Passive Voice
AspectAoristI was seenI am seenI will be seen
ImperfectI was being seenI am being seen
PerfectI had been seenI have been seenI will have
been seen
In English, the imperfect aspects are usually called "progressive," and I have also seen "durative" used in relation to Greek (and explicitly contrasted as such with "perfective"). In French and German we have statements with the same grammatical form as the English present perfect ("j'ai vu" and "ich habe gesehen"), but these are simple past tenses, not true perfects. Only aspect is used in many languages, like Arabic, Russian, and Japanese (usually just as "imperfective" and "perfective"); and in Greek only aspect is used in the subjunctive and imperative moods. Languages with only aspect can use the perfect to also mean the past tense and the imperfect to also mean the future. It is often said that the simple English present is now restricted to expressing habitual action. Thus, one says, "I am eating dinner," and "I eat dinner" is restricted to statements like "I eat dinner every day at 6 PM." However, one generally does say "I see them," and not "I am seeing them," because the action is best expressed in aorist rather than imperfect terms. "I am watching them," goes with an activity that involves temporal extension. Similarly, an aorist is often appropriate in subordinate clauses, as in, "If I eat dinner with those people, I will need to bring up what they have been doing." So the habitual use of the present aorist in English depends on the context, the syntax, and the meaning of the verb. It in the passive, "I am seen" strikes me as a little odd or archaic.

The ontological significance of this is that, while time is usually thought of as naturally divisible into past, present, and future, it is just as naturally divisible into perfect and imperfect, where "perfect" applies to the completed aspect of things, which means both the past and the present perfect, while the "imperfect" applies to the incompleted aspect of things, which means both the future and the present imperfect.

Aristotle's discussion of the contingency of propositions about the future in On Interpretation (the issue of "Future Contingency") is more naturally applicable to propositions about the imperfect. That the window is closed is just as contingent as the possible fact that the window will be closed in the future. By the same token, the necessity that Aristotle considers to apply to propositions about the past and present, really applies simply to the perfect aspect of things. If the window is closed, it cannot be otherwise that the window has been closed and then was closed. This is of great significance for the analysis of the nature of necessity and contingency in general, as for the ontology of time.

Greek Tenses, Active Voice

I saw

I see

I will see

I were
to see


I was seeing

I were


I had seen

I have
I know

I will
have seen

I were
to have

The Greek tenses are listed in the table at left. All these forms occur in all three Greek voices:  active, middle, and passive (though middle and passive are only distinguished in the aorist and future). In the Indicative mood we have the whole system. What are called the "aorist" and "imperfect" are there actually past tenses, while the "present" and the "future" do duty for both aorist and imperfect aspects in the present and future. In the Subjunctive and Imperative moods, however, we have the remarkable feature of a pure aspect system. The "present" tense does duty for the imperfect. The asymmetry in the use of the term "imperfect" is evident in the fact that the "perfect" is a present tense in the indicative, while there is no "impefect" to contrast with the "perfect" in the subjunctive at all. In the other Greek moods, Optative, Infinitive, and Participle, future forms are added to the aspects of the Subjunctive. The "imperfect" and "pluperfect" only occur in the Indicative mood. The striking thing about Greek morphology is that simple inflected forms exist for most of the combinations of tense, mood, and voice. Periphrastic forms, i.e. with auxiliary verbs like in English, exist for some forms, but are only exclusively used for even fewer.

Only two verbs in Greek have simple forms for the future perfect active. Otherwise there is recourse to a periphrastic form, i.e. with an auxiliary verb, as in English. So is the perfect active participle, "having seen," and is the 1st person singular active future, "I will be." It is very hard to translate this literally because the past participle in English (normally with "-ed") has a passive sense, just like the past participle in Latin (where the past participle for "see" is visus, visa, visum). Otherwise the verb for "see" in Greek has the peculiarity that its forms use three different roots, hor- in , ops- in , and id- in . Id- is the Indo-European *wid- root that turns up as far afield as the title of the Vedas, . In Greek we also get the noun idéa, , "idea" -- a word we still use, thanks to Plato. We find video in Latin and both "wit" and "wise" in English.

The aorist imperative active of "see," , íde, is a word featured in the epigraph to this page, , which is the famous Biblical verse, John 19:5, "Behold the man!" as Pilate shows Jesus to the crowd. In Latin that is Ecce homo, which Nietzsche used as the title for his autobiographical work. However, there is not universal agreement that this is the proper form of the verb for this passage. The form that I quote is from a bilingual, Greek-Modern Greek, version of the New Testament, Hê Kainê Diathêkê [Biblikê Hetairia, United Bible Societies, 1967, p.224]. The Modern Greek text repeats the verse as in Classical Greek. However, the same sentence is rendered with , idoú, in the Nestle-Aland Greek-English New Testament [Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft Stuttgart, 1981, 1990, p.311]. This is the aorist imperative middle voice of the same verb and root, and it is the form of the verb we actually see in the Greek text from the first source at 2 Corinthians 5:17, also quoted above (which has its own bewildering textual variations). It is not clear to me that there is any actual difference in meaning -- which is going to be "See!" or "Behold!" But voice is not the only difference. Liddell and Scott give the imperative active as and the imperative middle as , idoû [Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon, Oxford, Clarendon, 1889, 1964, p.227]. The latter is not the form we see in the Nestle-Aland text. Instead, there is a form that Liddell and Scott give as one of the adverbial variants of the verbs, namely , idé, and , respectively. Thus, the versions of the text differ not only in using different voices for the verb, but in whether the finite verb or an adverbial variant is used. In Latin, ecce, of uncertain derivation, is regarded as an adverb [Cassell's New Latin Dictionary, Funk & Wagnalls, 1959, 1960, p.206].

The variation in the Greek text of John 19:5 is due to different manuscript traditions and editorial judgments about their accuracy. The form is from the "Byzantine" manuscript tradition, often called the textus receptus, initially the Greek text used in Renaissance scholarship, and represented by a Robertus Stephanus edition of 1550. The bilingual Greek/Modern Greek text uses this "Byzantine" tradition, which is standard in the Greek Orthodox Church. The is from the "Alexandrian" manuscript tradition, which now is exemplified by the Nestle-Aland referenced above. As in this case, the variations can be annoying or frustrating, but it is often impossible to establish an original, correct form by reasoning alone. Scholars at first believed that the "Alexandrian" text was universally superior to the "Byzantine," but it now is more regarded as possibly better on a case by case basis. Either way, it is a curious business.

A striking feature of Greek verbs is variation in the internal vowels of some roots. This is called Ablaut in German (or apophony in Linguistics), after a parallel and related phenomenon in Germanic languages, which we still see in "strong" verbs in English such as "sing," where the principle parts are "sing, sang, sung" (with the related noun "song"). Ablaut can be observed in some forms of the id- stem of "see" in Greek, but its operaton is obscured by the loss of "w" that was originally at the beginning of the root (and was once written in Greek with the letter "digamma," which survives as the letter "F" in the Latin alphabet). Thus, the classic illustration of Greek Ablaut is the verb leípô, "to leave," whose relevant principle parts are:  , leípô (present), , élipon (aorist), and , léloipa (perfect). Here we see an alternation where one form, or grade, has an inserted or infixed "e," one left alone (zero grade), and the other an inserted "o." This also occurs in Sanskrit, where it is called gun.a, ; but, since both Indo-European "e" and "o" have become "a" in Indo-Iranian languages, some of the original variation has been lost. The most curious thing about these vowel changes is that the Ablaut grades in Greek correspond to the temporal aspects. is the (present) imperfect; , the (past) aorist; and , the (present) perfect. This intriguing system is already archaic and being lost in Greek; but along with its remnants in other Indo-European languages, it suggests that inflection for aspect belongs to a very deep layer of Indo-European linguistic history. One might wonder if it was the original temporal inflection, with aspect alone, as in Semitic languages. Indeed, the variable infixing of vowels is also characteristic of Semitic languages.

With the Greek tense and aspect system before us, Aristotle's discussion of Future Contingency is also noteworthy as data for theories about language. With an aspect system available in his own language, one might think, after reading certain people, not only that he would use that system, but that he would be compelled to use that system -- i.e. that his language would determine, providing the essential structure, for how he can think about anything. Yet Aristotle uses tense distinctions and ignores the aspect distinctions. In itself this is a counter-example to the linguistic relativists, for whom reality is a kind of epiphenomenon of language, with us locked into the world created by the grammar of our language (as S.I. Hayakawa used to say, "The way we talk determines the way we think"). By not being locked into the aspect system, Aristotle ironically misses an essential ontological feature of what he is talking about.

Or does he? Aristotle's own metaphysics is actually dualistic, with objects consisting of "form" (eîdos, species) and "matter" (hýlê). "Form" clearly reflects the perfect characteristics of fixity, while "matter," which embodies all power and potential, does those of imperfect openness. But Aristotle never sees any connection between this and the aspect system of Greek verbs, and it plays no part in his analysis of future contingency. It is a case where a metaphysical theory may have an explanatory power of which the philosopher himself is unaware.

The question of tense and aspect was originally discussed in The Origin of Value in a Transcendent Function.

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A New Kant-Friesian System of Metaphysics, Note 2

While there seems to be some awareness now that there are several forms of necessity, it was once fairly standard in Anglo-American philosophy to admit only one form. When I was a teaching assistant for the well known logican Irving Copi at the University of Hawaii in the early '70's, he said in class one day that the terms "necessary," "a priori," and "analytic" all referred to the same thing. The difference between them was just a difference in philosophical discipline:  "necessary" was mainly a metaphysical term, "analytic" was logical (denial produces a contradiction), and "a priori" was epistemological (knowledge occurs independent of experience).
necessaryanalytica priori
contingentsynthetica posteriori
The opposites of all of these, within their respective disciplines again, were "contingent," "synthetic," and "a posteriori." While this was often thought to be a faithful continuation of Hume's philosophy, Kant would certainly argue that Hume actually believed that there were synthetic propositions a priori, it is just that they were not based on reason and could not be rationally justified. If the principle of causality were truly contingent, as Hume is typically interpreted to say, then it would have to be possible for it to be false and to find counterexamples in experience. This is clearly not allowed by Hume himself, who rules out (1) chance and (2) free will, as well as (3) miracles, all because they violate causality. On the other hand, it was not uncommon among Logical Positivists to hold that analytic truth was simply an artifact of a deductive system, which itself was conventionally formulated and thus, in fact, contingent. Thus, analytic philosophy drifted towards the idea that there was no necessity, which was then a claim infamously made explicit by Willard Van Orman Quine. Thus, analytic philosophy collapses into complete scepticism, more extreme than the scepticism of Hume himself.

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A New Kant-Friesian System of Metaphysics, Note 3

The only possible form that could be given here that seems to me positively unnatural would be the expected form for the future passive imperfect, "I will be being seen." Perhaps it is the "be being" combination, which sounds redundant, or like a stutter, and does not otherwise occur. If anyone has any different intuition, or has examples from literature, please let me know. Otherwise, all the other forms here seem natural and common. The combination of aorist and imperfect is indeed something that we see often in other languages, as in the Greek forms discussed above.

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